Napping: Good for All Ages

Anyone caring for a senior knows that part of their daily routine includes time to take a nap.  Some seniors nap in both the morning and the afternoon, especially if they are early risers.

This week's Newsweek talks about the "Three-Martini Nap".  A new company in NYC offers private rooms with sleep pods and charges $15 for 20-minutes.  Some companies also offer a nap room now.  It seems we are realizing that a break in the day to relax will make the rest of the day much more productive.

The health benefits of napping have been proven by many studies, including a recent one by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Athens Medical School which showed that taking naps at least three days per week reduced coronary mortality by 37 percent.

The suggested nap length is 20 minutes, to boost alertness and motor performance.

Caregivers, especially, can find an afternoon nap a welcome reprieve from both the emotional and physical demands of their work.

I have long wished we Americans could enjoy a long lunch, followed by a siesta like our friends in Spain.....maybe that day is getting closer.




Emergency Planning for Natural Disasters

One of Caregiverlist's Senior Home Care Agencies is located in Waterloo, Iowa, and has had to meet the challenge of providing care services while flood waters were rising.  The Senior Helpers franchise owner offered free caregiving services to seniors in his community during the flood crisis.

It seems family members are confronted with so many challenges when managing care for a loved one, that sometimes they forget about making sure the basic emergency plans are in place.  Organizing an emergency plan for an aging parent can make it easier for everyone to weather the storm when it hits.

I know we all like to think natural disasters will never strike us.  However, it is a good idea to plan, just in case, because tornadoes and hurricanes and floods really do happen,even in the middle of Iowa which is in a 500-year flood plain. 

Here are a few simple items that most Senior Home Care Agencies check for when they start senior care services for a new client:

Senior Care Emergency Planning Checklist

-Flashlight with working batteries or matches and candles located where the Caregiver will easily find them

-Heating and Air Conditioning system controls (is the water heater in the basement? etc.) and service contacts if they have problems

-Emergency Contacts: phone numbers for reaching the family decisionmaker for emergencies and a back-up contact person if the first person is unreachable at all contact numbers

-Insurance: know where to locate all insurance policies and have name, phone numbers and policy number for each type of insurance

-Medical Doctors:  name, address and phone number for all doctors

-Medications:  names of all medications and schedule for taking them along with the contact information for the doctor who wrote the prescription and for the pharmacy

-Evacuation plan:  where would the senior go if they needed to leave their home during an emergency?

Formulating a game plan and communicating it will make it easier to react to an emergency.

When I owned a Senior Home Care agency we had a client with M.S. who was a smoker.  Even though she was not supposed to smoke when she was alone, she did so and caught her bathroom on fire.  We moved her to a hotel nearby and then assisted her to find an apartment to rent while her condo was being renovated.  She did not have any family members she could stay with and also required a location with wheelchair access that would allow her to smoke.  She did not have a plan in place so we had to improvise as best we could which meant renting an apartment in an area away from her neighborhood and her friends.  Perhaps if a plan had been made ahead of time, she would have had a temporary living location in her usual neighborhood.





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Ronald Reagan: We are All the Same When it Comes to Aging

About ten years ago, I was in Los Angeles attending a trade show for business.  At the end of the trip, I had made plans to meet a former intern for brunch before flying out of town.  We decided she would pick me up at my hotel, we would grab brunch and then she would drive me to the airport so we would have more time to catch-up (she was pursuing an acting career and had some good stories to share).

We decided to go to a hotel restaurant on the beach in Santa Monica since it was on the way to the airport.  We had not made reservations anywhere because we knew we would be so busy talking that any place would do.  The Concierge informed us that their restaurant was booked, but, if we didn't mind, they would seat us in their breezeway section, right off the hotel lobby as their outside patio was closed.  We said that would be fine.

We sat down and proceeded to start talking away.  A little later a few people sat down at the other table near us but we didn't really pay attention to them as we were deep in conversation.

The waitress brought our omelets and then she delivered a bowl of fruit to the table next to us and said, very loud and slowly, "Here you go, here is your fruit".  My friend turned to me and said, "She is talking to them like they are in an old folk's home".  I looked up and then I realized that the person sitting at the other table was former President Ronald Reagan and his nurse and 2 Secret Service officers. 

He had a baseball cap on and took it off and read the name of the team logo on it as if he were seeing it for the first time.  He then looked up at me and waved and then said something to his nurse and pointed at me.  I winked at her to let her know that I knew the situation and that everything was cool.  She then said to me, "he is flirting with you".  We then all laughed and so did he.  He seemed to think that I was someone he knew. 

We continued with our breakfast and they continued with theirs.  One of the Secret Service officers came over to our table to say hello and told us that they had just gone for a walk on the beach and sometimes stopped in for breakfast afterwards (I think he probably really was flirting with us).  President Reagan finished his breakfast at about the same time we finished ours.  We decided we would hit the bathroom and then leave.  The Secret Service officers and the nurse told President Reagan it was time to go but he did not want to get up.  After we finished in the bathroom, he was still sitting at the table, refusing to leave.  The Secret Service officer said goodbye to us and said that this happens sometimes with the President - I told him I understood because we experienced the same thing with my own grandfather when he had Alzheimer's Disease.

It was amazing to me that we were next to a man who had been president of the United States for two terms but no one in this busy restaurant and hotel even knew he was there - he was sitting in the "leftover" section with us.  For all his success, he was just another guy trying to get through another day while dealing with the effects of Alzheimer's Disease.

"Meet them where they are" is the advice given to caregivers.  No matter who you are or what you've done in this lifetime, we are all equals when it comes to aging.

And that's my story about breakfast with the President.






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Long-distance Caregiving

As the media covered the passing of Tim Russert this weekend, there were a few stories about how he coordinated care for his father back in Buffalo, after his Mother had died and "Big Russ" was in failing health.  Tim pulled together an army of friends to stop by at different times and perform assigned tasks.  Tim coordinated everything via his cell phone and also had some paid caregivers helping to fill out all the necessary shifts.

Managing all the care tasks needed for a parent, when you don't live in the same city, can present many challenges.  This can be even more challenging if the senior has memory loss or is resistant to help in anyway.

This is when Care Management can be a huge help and a great relief.  Geriatric Care Managers perform all the tasks a terrific adult child, with all the time in the world, would perform.  And as adult children usually have jobs and obligations for their own children, it becomes impossible to be everywhere at once.  As Care Managers are usually trained as Social Workers or Registered Nurses, they can quickly assess the situation and decide on the best approach for a plan of care.  Some attorneys and therapists have also become trained as Care Managers.

Because families no longer always live in the same city, the Geriatric Care Management industry is growing rapidly and can be a welcome third party to manage care needs.




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Vet Caregiving Benefit: For Spouses Too

I was talking with my cousin yesterday and realized that when I was discussing care options with her Mom last fall, I totally forgot to tell her about the Veteran's Aid & Attendance Benefit which also provides care for Surviving Spouses.

My uncle served in World War II, so she definitely qualifies.  I asked my cousin to tell her Mom about the benefit, as I know it will be a weight off her shoulders to have another avenue to pay for care, should the need arise.

Our website includes the downloadable application forms for this benefit:


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Rosalynn Carter's Caregiving Award

A friend invited me to the Carter Center's Winter Weekend which was held in Florida in February.  I was able to meet former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, and learn about all the work they both continue to do to try to make the world a better place for the rest of us.  President Carter decided he did not want to profit personally from his presidency (he would have been able to make millions by giving speeches, but he didn't go down that road).  He instead created the Carter Center which focuses on advancing human rights and alleviating unnecessary human suffering.  The Carter Center has nearly eliminated the guinea worm and river blindness in Africa and Latin America  - these are both conditions that can be prevented just by educational initiatives but had been overlooked by others.

President Carter also writes at least one book a year.  My Dad just sent me President Carter's most recent book, titled "A Remarkable Mother", about Lillian Carter.  She was a Registered Nurse and after her husband died, she invented a new life for herself.  She joined the Peace Corps at age 68 (she saw a TV commercial advertising "Age is No Barrier" and applied).  Then she worked as a housemother for the K.A. fraternity at Auburn University and later helped friends open a nursing home in Blakely, Georgia.  She kept on living life - and working - long after she was old enough to collect Social Security. 

Lillian discovered she had breast cancer which had spread to her pancreas in the summer of 1983 and passed away in October of that year.  She was fortunate to not have a long battle with the disease, and also fortunate to have a daughter-in-law who served as an advocate for caregivers.

Rosalynn Carter adopted caregiving as her initiative while at the White House and has continued to be a supporter of the needs of caregivers (she has written a few books, too, including some on caregiving).

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2008 Rosalynn Carter Caregiving Award.

Here is the scoop:

The purpose of the award is to recognize leadership in implementing innovative and creative partnerships between community agencies and caregiving researchers that bridge the gap between science and practice. The partnerships reflect best practices in providing effective caregiver supports to professional, family, and volunteer caregivers.

The award winning team will be announced at the RCI's Annual Conference, October 23 and 24, in Americus, Georgia.

First Lady Rosalynn Carter will present the team with a cash award of $20,000, to support efforts in implementing effective caregiver interventions at the community level.

For more information, visit:


Caregiving Stories

There is an old saying that something hasn't really happened until you've told someone else about it.

Caregiverlist offers a section for Caregivers to submit their caregiving stories because it is always interesting to learn how someone was led to caregiving as a career or became the chosen one in their family to provide the care.

Research indicates that the oldest daughter typically takes the role of caregiver for parents.  Sometimes a brother, sister or spouse needs care and someone becomes the caregiver out of necessity.

Last summer my cousin's husband fell off their roof while performing repairs (well, he actually fell from the ladder that fell from the roof).  Luckily, he only broke both shoulders.  As both of his arms had to be in a sling, this meant he couldn't feed himself nor provide his own personal care for bathing and toileting.  His wife worked during the day which meant he had to have family members and a paid Caregiver be there for him to help with meals and bathroom visits each day.  He told me that you think you understand what it must be like for those who are aging, but until you really need someone else to pull your pants down and wipe your behind, you have no idea how difficult it is to lose such a basic independence (he did however, develop some new skills during this time, including how to operate a tv remote-control with his feet)!

Caregivers provide much more than physical care and this leads to both challenges and closer connections.  Sometimes those needing care will allow a non-family member to get closer to them because they don't want their loved ones taking on the role of caregiver. And other times, someone needing care takes all their anger about their condition out on their caregiver.

Read about experiences other caregivers have had and share your own with us in our Caregiving Stories section.



Caregiver: The Movie

This movie was released the same week as "Sex and the City: The Movie", so no worries if you haven't heard about it yet.

The movie's focus is on a woman who leaves her country to work in London as a Caregiver and shows the realities of caregiving.

Caregiverlist also allows Caregivers to share their stories with us just to let us know we are not alone in sharing the challenges and fulfillment of caregiving.

You may read stories or submit your own here on our Caregiving Stories section.



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Checking Background Checks

What's in a Background Check?

This is something all of us should consider before assuming a background check is a stamp of approval that someone is "A-OK" for employment as a Caregiver.

Does the background check include a Social Security number match to the person?  Does the criminal history include more than one county?  Beware of any service that offers an "instant" check.  There are still counties that may not have instant updates to their information and good background check companies know this and take the necessary time to fact check (I always imagine Barney Fife from "The Andy Griffith Show" - it might take him a couple days to walk the arrest info over to the courthouse).

Keep in mind, too, that there are people who may have been arrested for shoplifting or theft who had the charges dropped in exchange for community service and the arrest will not show up on the information presented to an employer in a background check.

This is why even though a background check is nice, it is just as important to check other information, such as a regular employment history and both personal and professional references.

Background checks are regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which allows convictions to be reviewed for the last 7 years.  However, some states have passed laws which do allow for reviews beyond 7 years if the individual will be working with children or seniors.

Caregiverlist provides you with background check laws by state.

The unfortunate reality is that people who are looking to take advantage of someone often look to work privately for a senior as they are betting that a thorough multi-state background check will not be done.  Some of these individuals are wonderful actors and can really make you believe their stories.  Senior Home Care Agencies offer an added layer of protection through their insurance coverage and active management of the Caregivers.


Veteran's Caregiver Benefit

Military Veterans who meet certain requirements qualify for a Caregiver to assist them in their home with what is commonly called "Activities of Daily Living" (ADLs is the lingo used in the nursing community).  This just means if they need help with meal preparation, eating assistance, bathing and dressing, Uncle Sam will pay for a Caregiver to help.

As some Veterans may have more medical issues, at an earlier age, due to injuries during service, this can be a welcome benefit.  You cannot have more than $80,000.00 in assets, excluding homes and cars, to qualify.

You can learn more about the details for qualification on Caregiverlist, including which wars qualify and download the Aide & Attendance application.

It isn't easy to find the details on this benefit.  The Senior Home Care Agency I owned provided home care services to Veterans, after becoming an approved provider.  As I had to meet with the Veteran's Administration to set this up, I had direct contacts at the VA Hospital.  They educated me on the process and how to best work with the bureaucracy.

As this is just one of many benefits which Veterans may not be aware of, a website was started in 1999 to help. provides answers in plain English. 

Remember, a "Surviving Spouse" also qualifies for this benefit and both the Veteran and the spouse can receive care services at the same time.
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